Friday, 8 January 2010
Monday, 28 December 2009
Luka Modric opened the scoring just 11 minutes in at White Hart Lane after some excellent work from Aaron Lennon down the right side. It then took Spurs until the 81st minute to double the lead and secure the 3 points, as Jermain Defoe netted his 14th League goal of the season, and in the process reclaiming the status as the League’s leading goalscorer.
Spurs were impressive right from the outset, dominating possession and having numerous chances to put the Hammers out of the game. Gianfranco Zola experienced a disastrous first 20 minutes, as in the aftermath of Modric’s goal Scott Parker had to be replaced with a sore hamstring – Parker had earlier passed a late fitness test. Then Herita Illunga was forced to come off with exactly the same problem, and the Hammers were left with a big uphill struggle to get back in the game.
They fought well throughout the match but never looked like threatening Gomes’ goal. A number of late challenges saw Diamanti, Franco and Kovac receive yellow cards from Chris Foy, the latter probably lucky to stay on the pitch after stamping on Tom Huddlestone’s ankle.
Spurs pressed forward in the second half looking to kill off the visitors, who won at home for the first time since April at the weekend. The breakthrough eventually came from a Spurs counter attack, whereby Jermain Defoe gathered the ball in the inside left position, rounded a the West Ham defence, before unleashing a fierce drive that Robert Green failed to hold. The rebound fell back to Defoe who repeated the motion and claimed the points for the home side.
Problems mounting for Zola then, as both Parker and Illunga are doubts for the next match, and with Franco picking up his 5th booking of the season just a day before the 5th booking rule is abolished, the absentee list is even longer. It seems like the Hammers are in for a long and hard new year.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
The situation is so bad that for United’s final Champions League group stage match, both Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher had to play at the back alongside Patrice Evra. Amongst the substitutes was Oliver Gill, son of Chief Executive David Gill, who provided cover should anyone else have gone down injured.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has remarked that Campbell could have a similar impact in Manchester as Henrik Larsson did a couple of seasons ago.
"Sol can do at the back what Henrik Larsson did up front for Manchester United two years ago. Campbell can prove, as Swedish star Larsson did, that he still has the quality to play at the very highest level and I’m not surprised by reports tipping him for a Premier League return."
The question is, would the United fans welcome the signing, or would his history as an Arsenal player hinder him?
It was Ashton's first call up to the National side, one of many highs during a career that possessed so much potential.
The moment that effectively ended Ashton's career was a tackle by then Chelsea midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips. The tackle broke Ashton's ankle, and forced him to miss the entirety of the 2006-07 season. He bounced back the following year to net 11 goals in 35 appearances for the Hammers, but after scoring both goals in a 2-1 win against Wigan, the opening game of the 2008-09 season, Ashton twisted his ankle in Gianfranco Zola's first training session at the club in September 2008, and he would never play again.
Now, 3 years on from the initial injury, Ashton is contemplating suing Wright-Phillips, and Chelsea for the tackle that put an end to his dream. West Ham boss Zola doesn't see the logic in that decision though:
"He was playing for England but it could have happened at any time. There is no time for regrets or blaming anyone. It seems strange. I don't think he might want to do something like that."
Of course, Chelsea's argument is that they were not responsible for their player's actions at the time, as he was under the watch of the English FA, and the England staff. They cannot control what their player does if they are not present and in control of what he's doing. An appeal is inevitable should Ashton go ahead with the proposed move.
A very sad end to a very good player's career then. He started his career at Crewe Alexandra, under the guidance of stalwart manager Dario Gradi. In 5 years at Gresty Road, Ashton bagged 61 goals in 159 appearances, as well as scoring 4 goals in 9 games for the England Under-21 side in that time. He then moved to Norwich City where he played 44 games, notching 17 goals, before he made the £7m move to East London and West Ham United. Alan Pardew was the man responsible for bringing Ashton to the Premier League. He felt Ashton had a lot more to offer.
"I always felt, if Dean had stayed fit, I would have stayed at West Ham. I'm sorry it's come to this, because I had a lot of time for him. He had a lot of quality about him."
Ashton scored 15 times in 46 games for the Hammers, but how many more goals would he have netted should he not suffered that fatal ankle injury? Unfortunately, we will never know.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
It was a typically cagey performance from Liverpool over a side whom Fiorentina and Lyon have put 13 goals past in 3 games, with Lyon finishing the group stage at home to the Hungarian champions on the 9th December. It was a performance that summed up the last few months for Rafael Benitez’ side, and one that was certainly not deserving of progression in the competition.
The only goal of the game came after only 4 minutes, when David N’gog poked the ball home inside the 6 yard box. Opportunities were few and far between after that, although Debreceni goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic made a couple of decent saves to deny Javier Mascherano and Steven Gerrard in the second half. The home side could even have got something out of the match at the end, as both Gergely Rudolf and Adamo Coulibaly had chances to snatch a late equalizer. Nevertheless, it was a proud effort from the group underdogs.
Liverpool now enter the newly named Europa League, for which they were dubbed favourites even before kickoff tonight, further underlining the difficulty of the task Liverpool faced. A chance maybe for Benitez and the boys to salvage some pride from what’s been a pretty woeful campaign so far.
So where have Liverpool gone wrong? I’ve highlighted a few key areas that need looking at if anything is to be rescued from the wreckage that is the 2009/2010 season.
1. Investment in the January transfer window.
Liverpool lack strength in depth, something that the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal don’t. With Fernando Torres out injured, David N’gog starts up front, and although the young Frenchman has netted a few times this season, he’s nowhere near the class of Torres and certainly hasn’t shown enough ability to suggest he could be a regular starter in any competition. The same has to be said for left-back Emiliano Insua who simply isn’t good enough to be playing at this level, at least not yet. He’s been exposed recently by nearly every player that he’s come up against, and hasn’t showed much promise going forward either. Money, as little as Liverpool have at the moment, needs to be spent extremely wisely in January to strengthen the squad.
2. Consistency in selection.
One of the areas that Liverpool perhaps do have reasonable depth is in the centre of defence. Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Sitirios Kyrgiakos, and even Daniel Sanchez Ayala have all been used in the heart of Liverpool’s back line recently, and they’ve failed to settle as a unit. Another 2 goals were conceded at the weekend to Manchester City, to add to the 18 they’d previously conceded in the League. Skrtel hasn’t had his best run of form of late, and Agger is only just recovering from a series of injuries. Kyrgiakos has looked unsteady since his £1.5m summer arrival from AEK Athens, and Carragher has been far from the kind of form he showed last season, and has received much criticism. It’s a tough one for Benitez who is clearly unsure as to what his best pairing is. I say stick with Carra and Agger for now, and get Skrtel training hard and improving his game, and should Agger pick up another knock then the Slovakian International can slot right back in.
3. More creativity in attack.
The loss of Xabi Alonso in the Summer to Real Madrid has received a lot of talk right up to this day. The simple fact is, losing Alonso means losing one of the best playmakers in Europe, and perhaps even the World. Alberto Aquilani was brought in for a big sum of money but spent the first 10 weeks of the season on the sidelines following ankle surgery. That meant that Lucas Leiva would get a long run in the side, and unfortunately despite being a part of Brazil’s recent squads, he doesn’t have anywhere near the level of ability, creativity, or finesse that Alonso brought to the centre of Liverpool’s midfield. It’s been evident that there’s been a shortage of something different, something inventive in the final third, and that’s limited the options that the likes of Dirk Kuyt, and Yossi Benayoun have had coming from wide positions. Getting Aquilani in the side is a must now, and supporting Torres should be the priority, whether that’s supplying him with good service, or making the effort to burst forward and get numbers in the box.
4. A little less conversation, a little more action.
Rafael Benitez’ future has been discussed more than any other Footballing topic this season and it’s clearly having an effect on everyone at the club. Benitez knows he’s under pressure, and so do the players, so I don’t think he needs reminding in every post-match press conference. Let the man get on with his job, and if the time comes to make a change, do it, but without the unnecessary debating, speculating, and whatever else comes with it.
So, there are the 4 key things that need addressing in order to get Liverpool’s season back on track, if that is even possible. They have a chance in the Europa League to get some silverware which would be a decent consolation for exiting the Champions League, and with the Merseyside Derby on Saturday there’s plenty for the Reds to look forward to. No doubt they’ll be chomping at the bit to get a result at Goodison to keep the fans content, and put their European nightmare firmly to the back of their minds.
Captain Mario Melchiot said;
We feel that as a group of players we badly let down our supporters, and this is a gesture we have to make and pay them back for their tremendous loyalty. There’s not a lot else, just that as a group of professionals we were embarrassed by the way we performed. We feel it was below our standard and this is something we feel we owe to the fans.
That defeat has left Wigan Athletic 15th in the Premier League table after 13 games, 3 points adrift of the relegation zone, and now with a goal difference of -17. Inconsistency is the Latics’ major problem this season. Beating Chelsea being their ultimate high, and obviously this record defeat being the biggest low.
Good luck to Roberto Martinez for getting his players back on track in the next game, an important home tie against high-flying Sunderland.
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Peter Crouch opened the scoring in the first ten minutes with a stooping header, but the home side failed to add to the scoreline before half-time. However, amazingly they netted 8 goals in the second period, with Defoe’s first two coming within just 3 minutes of each other. Paul Scharner did a Thierry Henry to get Wigan seemingly back in the game by clearly using his hand to control the ball before smashing it into the net.
However, that proved to be Wigan’s only moment of joy at the Lane, as Defoe restored the 3 goal cushion just moments later, before Aaron Lennon made it 5-1. Defoe then added two more, and in the process passing Fernando Torres as the League’s highest scorer this season. A David Bentley freekick and a Niko Kranjcar strike capped off a remarkable performance for Harry Redknapp’s men.
Yet more evidence that Spurs in attack are as good as anyone in the Premier League. Once again, an inability to keep a clean sheets highlights that there’s still a lot of work defensively to be done, but I have a feeling ‘arry would have taken this result at the start of the day. Just a hunch.
As for Wigan, Roberto Martinez will probably want the earth to swallow him up tonight. What must those Latics fans be thinking?